Saturday, September 03, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Relief: Californians Lend A Helping Hand

The San Jose Mercury-News reports what some central Californians are doing to help alleviate the suffering of Hurricane Katrina's victims: (emphasis added)
Chris Kite, a Cisco Systems global manager, was planning to board the 11:40 p.m. red-eye flight to Houston on Friday night as a Red Cross volunteer. Though she's a risk manager in her day job, she has never done anything like this before.

Her decision to give up a holiday weekend camping trip with her husband and friends in Big Sur to help hurricane victims is only one example of the overwhelming desire Bay Area residents say they feel to do something, almost anything, to help out.

Kite packed her fast-drying underwear and mosquito repellent, and is wearing clothes with lots of pockets to stash the $100 bills friends and colleagues have given her.

"'Just give the money to the person who needs it the most', they tell me,'' said Kite, who expects to be assigned to a shelter. "I'm not scared, but I am a little anxious."
From cheerleaders to teachers, other Calfornians are doing their part to assist in the emergency:
Led by their coach, Palo Alto High School cheerleaders and dance team members are filling a moving van heading to Gulfport, Miss. with water, construction tools and clothes. Janie Patterson, a registered nurse from Santa Clara, expects to fly out today with her suitcase full of stethoscopes and scrubs. And she's also bringing along her trademark pink high water boots with red hearts. Katrina will be the eighth hurricane the Palo Alto Veteran's Hospital nurse has responded to since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 -- and she's never left her boots at home.

Katrina (yes, Katrina) Sullivan of San Jose, who went to New Orleans to celebrate her 21st birthday with her boyfriend last weekend, has been volunteering there, and is due home tonight. "It's a 21st birthday she'll never forget," said her mom, Sharon Sullivan.

And Will Scott is planning a 4,600-mile round-trip drive next week from San Jose to Baton Rouge in a 53-foot-long big rig, filled with 5,300 gallons of water. The trucker for TransPak of San Jose usually delivers high-tech equipment in Silicon Valley, and his company is applying for emergency special permits so he can drive out-of-state.

"It's really common for this kind of response to a tragedy, it's just more of it,'' said Ana-Marie Jones, who heads an Oakland-based non-profit group that specializes in getting disaster aid to poor, minority and disabled populations.

"When we had Loma Prieta, people got in their cars from everywhere and drove here. We have not had a tragedy of this magnitude or seen this level of destruction and the raw human suffering on American soil, and it's something few Americans have any capacity to accept.''

Many large valley firms, including Oracle and the law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, are matching contributions of their employees for relief efforts. Cisco Systems and Apple sent e-mails encouraging employees to volunteer their talents -- and dozens stepped up.

The Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross had collected more than $250,000 for hurricane victims by mid-day Friday. It had also trained more than 100 volunteers, most of whom were headed for the region. The group is planning to train another 200 volunteers starting next week, and has a waiting list of another 300 people who are interested.

Local chapter spokeswoman Cynthia Shaw called the response unprecedented. The local chapter has been so inundated with calls for people wanting to contribute or volunteer the system crashed.

Palo Alto public schools are already hosting some students from the Gulf Coast, said associate superintendent Marilyn Cook. At St. Clare School, a Catholic elementary school in Santa Clara, almost all the students brought money for the hurricane victims to Mass on Friday. Principal Kathy Almazol said she encouraged students to give their own money, not simply ask their parents for a donation.

When Leigh Cambra, a Palo Alto High teacher and dance team coach, learned her family's Mountain View trucking company had just received a load from Gulfport, she jumped into action. "We didn't want that truck to go back empty," she said, and her team started a school-based drive to collect goods. She sent out a few e-mails, and the impromptu fund-raiser has taken off "far beyond expectations."

"We're hoping," she said Friday, "to send the truck back full."
These are excellent examples of the types of efforts that are going-on all over the country as folks are united in their resolve to assist their fellow Americans.
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